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The TRUE Story Behind The Boy Who Chained His Bike to a Tree When He Went Away to War

Recent History | August 9, 2017

The photo below is one we've seen so many times in the internet.

The story goes like this...

A young boy left his bike leaning on a tree as he goes off to war in 1914. He never got the chance to go back after the war so his parents left it there in memory of him.

This is the Vashon Island Bike Tree and here's the real story behind it...

The USA didn't join WWI in 1914. It engaged in 1917. And they never sent young boys off to war - the bike looks like it's owned by a 10-year-old.

There's no need to go back to 1914 for the start of this story – as a matter of fact, we only need to go back to 1950s because this is a bicycle from the 1950s and it was owned by an 8-year-old boy.

The bike actually belonged to retired King County deputy sheriff, Don Puz, who now lives in Kennewick. He spent his childhood in the island and lived there until 1992. Puz narrates how, in 1954, they lost his father in a house fire, leaving his mother with five kids.

To get the family going again, the island community came together and helped by donating different things.
Among those things was a bike for the young Don. "I did not like the bicycle. It resembled a tricycle, but with two wheels. It had hard elastic tires and thin little handlebars," he says. The family then moved to a house near a swampy area. "We loved playing there, capturing toads. We'd jump into ponds and mud. It was a great place," he says. At some point in the mid-1950s, Puz forgot the bike in that swampy are and didn't bother to get it back.

In 1995, while visiting a sister still staying on the island, Puz got to see the local attraction. "The first words that came rushing out of my mouth were, 'That's my bicycle!' " he says. "I was completely sure as far as I can say." Despite everything, he still has no affection for the bicycle or for its current run-down state. "A bicycle itself doesn't have any sentiments," says Puz.

"It's not mine anymore," Don Puz says contemplatively, somehow amazed, maybe, of how time creates its own particular stories. "I discarded it for quite some time now. I think the tree is its new owner now."

It has now turned into a major landmark and also a prospect for those looking for souvenirs and extremely small remains of the bicycle. Local authorities try to keep it alive by replacing stolen parts but it is getting increasingly hard finding parts for a bicycle this old.

How the bicycle wounded up in the tree wasn't the case of a youthful fir sapling developing under the bicycle and engulfing it, says educator Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh, of the University of Washington's Department of Biology. "That bike would have been too hefty for a youthful tree," she says. Chances are, says Van Volkenburgh, when the tree grew much bigger, "someone hung that bike on the tree.

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